Creating a Life: The Memoir of a Writer and Mom in the Making
by Corbin Lewars
[2009. Catalyst Book Press; 174 pages, paperback.]
[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 93, Spring 2010, © 2010, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Robin Barbier.]
The need for women’s health care providers (i.e., obstetricians, gynecologists, doulas and midwives) to be knowledgeable about the impact of sexual abuse and violence on women’s lives and their experience giving birth is critical. We are the ones most likely to encounter these strong feelings, and we are the ones who can offer the space to let healing begin. Thanks to the hard work of women such as Penny Simkin, PT, and Phyllis Klaus, MFT, MMSW, authors of When Survivors Give Birth: Understanding and Healing the Effects of Child Sexual Abuse on Childbearing Women, more awareness has come to light about this issue. Another milestone broaching this topic occurred in 2008 when Survivor Moms: Women’s Stories of Birthing, Mothering and Healing after Sexual Abuse, by Mickey Sperlich, MA, CPM, and Julia S. Seng, PhD, CNM, was published.
The latest book to tackle this tough issue, Creating a Life: The Memoir of a Writer and Mom in the Making, by Corbin Lewars, is a memoir that emphasizes how deeply impacted the life of a survivor of sexual abuse is and how having the space to be in control of her body should not only be allowed but encouraged and honored. This story may also help women realize that they have the right to demand a provider that respects and honors them and their abilities to birth their baby. Too many books on pregnancy, birth and becoming a mother paint an idealistic picture that many of us find hard to live up to, leaving us questioning our abilities as mothers. Lewars tells her story in a different way. Her honesty allows room for the rest of us—those who have struggled to become pregnant, experienced pregnancy loss or suffered the tragedy of sexual abuse. Lewars draws you into her world within the very first pages and, although there are some rather heavy moments in the book, manages to keep the reader engaged with her spirited sense of humor. Reading Lewars story is like having a conversation with a dear friend. Her writing style is accessible, raw and refreshingly honest. She does not censor her story in order to make it more comfortable for the reader (or for those being written about for that matter). Instead Lewars tells her story the way it happened and reflects on her experience. Although she openly discusses her miscarriage and the process of remembering being raped and learning to cope with those memories; you never get the feeling that she is wallowing—rather, as the book progresses, you witness her finding her strength and become keenly aware that you can tap into your own strength as well.
Through birthing her son at home and choosing to be supported by a midwife; Lewars learns to trust her body and her instincts. Having a midwife who understood how to honor her choices and her body helped Lewars feel safe and allowed the space for her to begin healing from the sexual abuse. Lewars discusses her midwifery appointments and notes that they were often over an hour long. She writes that she never felt rushed and always felt respected—not feelings she had experienced with other medical providers. Appointments with other providers had left her feeling dehumanized and disrespected, however the time spent with her midwife made her feel valued and powerful. By the time her labor began she felt confident in herself and her body. The birth itself was triumphant because Lewars finally had the opportunity to feel in control of her body, trust herself and experience her own strength.
Both Creating a Life and Survivor Moms are powerful books that are an inspiring read for anyone, but are especially poignant for women who have a history of sexual abuse and/or pregnancy loss. These books are also a potent read for partners of women healing from sexual abuse, for through them they may be reassured as they see that—although the healing can be a difficult journey—on the other side awaits an even more beautiful and powerful woman with increased vibrancy and vitality. And, for those who have experienced sexual abuse, these books will remind you that it is not your fault and you are not alone!
Reviewer Robin Barbier considers herself privileged to have assisted hundreds of women prepare for their transition to motherhood as a childbirth educator and/or doula. Currently, she is a doctoral student, researcher and freelance writer. She and her family live in the Pacific Northwest.